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  I'm going to have to..., March 2, 2009
I'm going to have to join the chorus of praises on this page and sing another one for the Pilot Parallel.

It's a bit of a paradox. The Parallel is cheap - very cheap. And it's overtly plastic, and it's not even that elegantly put together. Its plastic parts have seam lines all over the place, the silver color of the body isn't 100% even... And yet, it doesn't matter one lick, because the Parallel is simply the best writing calligraphy fountain pen I've ever used.

The secret, of course, is Pilot's "parallel plate" nib. The name is a little ambiguous; After all, every calligraphy fountain pen nib consists of two "parallel" plates, one next to the other with a split down the middle. The Pilot pen, on the other hand, has two plates sandwiched on top of each other. Ink flows between them and because of the comparatively massive capillary surface area it's kept flowing smoothly and is remarkably resistant to drying out in the nib.

The end result works surprisingly well. The Parallel is somewhat sensitive to how flat you hold its nib against the paper, moreso than traditional calligraphy pens, but when used correctly it produces the cleanest, crispest, most even lines I've ever experienced. It's nib-to-paper feel is likewise excellent and is usually an indicator of how you're handling the pen. If the feel isn't silky-smooth it's a surefire sign that you're not holding the nib flat.

That said, the Parallel is a very wet writer (as repeatedly mentioned by others) and because of this you have to be a bit careful about how fast you write and what kind of paper you use. The Parallel is undoubtedly capable of being used on just about any paper (except maybe paper towels, or tissue paper) if you get the lead out and don't let the nib stay stationary for long. On coarse or porous paper, though, that huge capillary surface area can whip up an inkblot the size of a quarter in seconds if you just poke the nib into one place and leave it there, so don't do that. If you have a habit of resting or tapping the nib against your paper while you ponder your next sentence, do yourself a favor and knock it off.

The only ink I've tried in mine so far is the stock Pilot branded stuff that came with it, so I can't comment on how thinner versus thicker inks will work with the Parallel. Reports indicate that thicker inks will be more controllable, and I can certainly see how that would be true. When it's moving, at least, the Parallel is about as wet as the customized (ground nib) Sheaffer I'm used to using, so I would imagine it'd do just fine with ink similar to Sheaffer's "Skrip" stuff and equivalents.

Towards that end, the Parallel comes with a couple of goodies of varying utility. There's a nib cleaning card, for a start, which is meant to be used to floss dirt and paper swarf out from between the nib plates. You get one measley black cartridge and one red with the pen, and they're proprietary to Pilot pens and functionally unavailable in the US except by mail order. You get a converter cartridge with the set but it's a rubber "squeeze bulb" design that's got miserable suction and worse capacity. Pilot insists that the converter cartridge is only intended to be used to clean the pen (by sucking up and backwashing water or cleaning fluid through the nib) and I'd just as soon take their word for it. If you want to refill the Parallel, get a syringe and just refill an empty cartridge instead.

My only other complaint is that the Parallel doesn't come with any sort of pocket clip. It makes sense, because the pen's body is longer than your usual pocket-pen, but it makes life difficult for those of us who use our calligraphy pens for day-to-day writing. (The dingus that sticks out of the Parallel's cap, if you're wondering, is just a flap of plastic that's meant to keep the pen from rolling away.) There's also no way to affix the cap to the tail of the pen, so you'll have to find someplace else to stick it while you're writing.
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